Praise from LeBron, NBA peers ‘means the world' to Steph


SAN FRANCISCO – The bandwagon of supporters and admirers of Stephen Curry has been cheek-to-jowl for nearly a decade. Over the years, despite a few scattered misanthropes lining up to lob rocks, the wheels kept rolling and the rig stayed packed.

It’s time for an upgraded version. A bigger model. Might be smarter to make it a full fleet.

Curry’s blistering NBA Finals performances are sending his stock soaring among those that matter most – fellow professional athletes, specifically the stars in the league he entered when the Warriors drafted him in 2009.

Among current NBA stars resorting to social media in recent days to express appreciation, even adulation, are LeBron James, Joel Embiid and CJ McCollum. Among retired players: Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade and Jamal Crawford.

Steph’s spectacular performance in Game 4 – 43 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and utter ownership of the Celtics and their vociferous fans – clearly had jaws dropping around the globe.

“Any player will tell you,” Curry said Sunday, “when you get respect and praise from your colleagues and guys who have been on this stage and know what it's about and how hard it is to do what we do, that means the world.”

Others beyond the NBA, including 49ers star tight end George Kittle, chimed in.

Yeah, Steph is starting to get flowers that, for some, eluded him as he was amassing three championships, eight All-NBA selections and two MVP awards – his second as the only unanimous winner ever.

“You obviously want everybody to appreciate what you do and all that,” Curry said. “But it hits different when there's people that you looked up to once upon a time, when they were having their first and second experiences and you're watching them, like, ‘I wonder what that's like,’ and then you have some battles.

“For them to go out of their way and to speak about your impact on the game and all that type of stuff, it means the world, for sure. Because it takes a great to recognize what it takes to do what we do, for sure.”

No doubt Curry’s status is boosted by his fantastic response to the dire circumstances surrounding Game 4. The Warriors were facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. TD Garden Arena in Boston was a cauldron of antagonism. And while he was at one point shooting 9-of-17 (52.9 percent) from the field, his teammates were lagging in at 15-of-43 (34.9 percent).

For the Warriors on Friday night, it was Steph or failure.

Klay Thompson said Curry “put us on his back.” Draymond Green said Curry “wasn’t letting us lose.” There was no shortage of compliments from his teammates.

Perhaps the Celtic most reverential after such a tough loss is the one he best understands what Steph can do to a defense was Marcus Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

“We all know what he can do outside of 20 feet, 30 to 35, 40 feet,” Smart said. “The dude is special in that regard. The way that he's able to affect the game by being able to run around and play off the ball and get himself open, it's just tough on a defender because you can't take a break. The instant you think that he's not doing anything, the play is over for him, and that's when you get beaten. That's when you get burnt.

“That's when this mentality comes in and you've got to stay ready, you can't give up, you've got to keep going.”

RELATED: Kerr defends Draymond's 'brilliant' Game 4 performance

That’s always been Curry’s edge. Short of delivering a posterizing dunk, he’s an offensive threat in every conceivable way.

The real ones know about Steph. And they’re slinging acclaim at his feet. One bandwagon, no matter how large, is not enough.

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